The issues of food defense and bovine spongiform encephalopathy were the focal points of this year’s U.S. Food Safety Summit, held recently Washington. Both Dr. Lester Crawford, administrator of the FDA, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns focused on the topics in their keynote remarks.

Johanns announced that almost $2 million in funding had been redirected to enhance research into BSE and that $5 million had been awarded to 17 colleges and universities to establish a Food Safety Research and Response Network.

The BSE research funds, redirected by the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, will be used for new BSE projects and facilities. The newly funded projects include international collaborations with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in Great Britain to study the biology of the BSE agent, the Italian BSE Reference Laboratory to evaluate present diagnostic tools for detecting atypical BSE cases and the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain to compare North American and European BSE strains.

The Food Safety Research and Response Network, spearheaded by North Carolina State University, will include a team of more than 50 food safety experts from 18 colleges and universities who will investigate several of the most prevalent food-related illness pathogens. Pathogens like E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter will be studied to determine where they are found in the environment, how they are sustained and how they infect herds.